Author Topic: Shutting down the toxic family gossip  (Read 5484 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Ceallach

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4800
    • This Is It
Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« on: January 12, 2013, 10:14:23 PM »
There is a person in my extended family who always seems to put her foot in it by raising inappropriate topics.  There have been a number of occasions where she has caused other relatives to cry, or generally created drama unnecessarily. (Such as outing a gay relative in front of the family, that type of thing).   She is a friendly, generous person who adores her family and 90% of the time is pleasant company.  But every time we see her there is always some incident that goes too far - she either doesn't know when to shut up, or enjoys creating drama.  I should add that we very rarely see this relative.  The most recent occasion was the first time in 2 years!   However, I would still like to know how to handle her on the occasions that do arise.   

The most recent occasion a group of relatives were having dinner together.  We were naturally chatting about the family in general - quite normal for a family get together in my experience!  It was a thoroughly pleasant evening, until right near the end where she suddenly took things one step to far and brought up something very negative about one of our deceased relatives.   My first reaction was to simply ignore it, but unfortunately that plunged the entire table into an incredibly awkward silence as nobody knew how to respond.  I realised that DH and most of the others present had *no* idea of the incident she was referring to and were sort of at a loss, so it was up to me to get us through it.  I went with a lame kind of "Yes of course I've heard the stories, but who knows what really happened" and tried to beandip.   I would have feigned ignorance and beandipped but I was afraid that would just encourage her to "enlighten" me by elaborating further.   So I felt I needed to address it but shut her down.  (I *do* know what she was referring to, but the main people involved are dead and it's a situation that was all hearsay based and unsubstantiated, plus a topic that is guaranteed to make people feel uncomfortable so really inconsiderate to bring it up - not appropriate dinner party conversation!!)   She tried one more tack along the lines of "Well my Dad also says XYZ!" and I somehow awkwardly changed the topic.  We managed to get some more normal small talk in before leaving - I really didn't want to jump up and leave immediately as that would have ended the evening on a sour note and been unfair to our hosts.   I should add that her behaviour is obvious enough that after we left I said to DH "So, I see Clare is still Clare" and he responded "Yep, she just always has to take it that 1 step too far!"  So while it's a small, minor part of each occasion it does happen everytime and is incredibly obvious to us.

So, how does one respond when a relative suddenly says "And of course, Grandpa was a pedophile!" during dinner?      I would like a cool line that smoothly and politely conveys that a topic is inappropriate and segways into something else without creating a confrontation or drama.   I don't want to feed the drama llama, but I want to avoid her ruining the occasion or dragging us down to her level.
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


diesel_darlin

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1086
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2013, 10:23:55 PM »
I have no words of advice, but I will be watching this thread with interest as I have a "Clare" in my family as well.

Ceallach

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4800
    • This Is It
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2013, 10:31:42 PM »
I have no words of advice, but I will be watching this thread with interest as I have a "Clare" in my family as well.

Lol!  Yes I think every family probably has one in there somewhere, don't they?  I just keep trying to imagine how a great lady of yesteryear would respond - I'm sure this type of issue has been a problem in polite company for 100s of years!   There must be some classic, elegant way of handling it.    I don't think a straight beandip would necessarily work, nor a complete silence.   
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


NyaChan

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4107
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2013, 10:35:02 PM »
This reminds me of After the Funeral by Agatha Christie.  I think you handled it well in the moment.  Really with people like that it is hard to know whether it would be better to face them head on with a "Why are you saying this?  Are you trying to cause trouble?" or just ignore them and keep the conversation going. 

Hmmmmm

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6712
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2013, 11:33:01 PM »
Well, in my family someone would break the silence with a comment like "And there folks is how you bring a halt to a pleasant family conversation." and then people would laugh and someone would change the conversation. 

Or if my aunt Wendy was there, she would flat out say "why are you bringing up unpleasant topics when we are having such a nice conversation?" or my sister no. 3 would say "none of us were there and have all the facts so I'd rather not discuss it.  Excuse me, I'm going to the restroom."

I know this because they have all shut me or one of my other sis's down when we tried to bring up what we saw as old family legend stuff. 

diesel_darlin

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1086
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2013, 11:37:35 PM »
I have no words of advice, but I will be watching this thread with interest as I have a "Clare" in my family as well.

Lol!  Yes I think every family probably has one in there somewhere, don't they?  I just keep trying to imagine how a great lady of yesteryear would respond - I'm sure this type of issue has been a problem in polite company for 100s of years!   There must be some classic, elegant way of handling it.    I don't think a straight beandip would necessarily work, nor a complete silence.


My "Clare" ignores beandip and takes silence as a challenge.  ;D

oceanus

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 693
  • pronounced o-see-ANN-us
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2013, 11:57:15 PM »
Well, in my family someone would break the silence with a comment like "And there folks is how you bring a halt to a pleasant family conversation." and then people would laugh and someone would change the conversation. 

Or if my aunt Wendy was there, she would flat out say "why are you bringing up unpleasant topics when we are having such a nice conversation?" or my sister no. 3 would say "none of us were there and have all the facts so I'd rather not discuss it.  Excuse me, I'm going to the restroom."

I know this because they have all shut me or one of my other sis's down when we tried to bring up what we saw as old family legend stuff.
These are very good, imo.

I had a relative who used to say embarassing, inappropriate things and the remarks came out of nowhere  Then she would laugh like a hyena while others just sat there - mortified.

"Remember when X got detained for shoplifting?" (25 yrs ago)
"How about that time X was caught having an affair with X?"
"So X said her car was stolen, but I heard it was repossessed."

Finally someone would shut her down with "Why on earth are you saying these things?  Are you that desperate for attention?  Please, stop."

cicero

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 17922
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2013, 03:14:49 AM »
I don't think we have a clare in our family... maybe we don't have enough skeletons in our closet lol...

I probably would say something like i would say to a young child "clare, that isn't appropriate dinner talk" and then bean dip.

            Created by MyFitnessPal.com - Free Weight Loss Tools

Ms Marple

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 37
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2013, 05:58:33 AM »
Hm, I have been in a similar situation many years ago. Someone made a inappropriate remark and in the silence that fell in the conversation I said ' Thank you for your contribution. However, we are now going back live to the studio. Aunt B, what do you think of those dark purple hyacinths which just came on the market?'

Amava

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 4751
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2013, 09:22:13 AM »
"Clare, that's really not something to discuss during a pleasant dinner conversation."
Bean dip.

artk2002

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 13074
    • The Delian's Commonwealth
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2013, 10:19:07 AM »
I will disagree just a tad with Amava and say that in the OP at least, you should have gone straight to the bean dip. Instead of filling the awkward silence with a response to her, fill it with something else. "So, how 'bout that NHL lockout? Is Gary Bettman the devil's right-hand man?"  Give her *no* traction at all.  Later, someone (is there a matriarch/patriarch in the family?) takes Clare aside and takes her to task.

Be prepared with a set of topics for bean dip. Jump in with them just as soon as she starts in on something inappropriate. In effect, shun her conversationally. Pay attention when she's good, but give her nothing when she's bad.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Iris

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3867
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2013, 05:15:46 PM »
I agree with giving her nothing, although with a slight twist. I wouldn't simply change the topic, because I'd be afraid that she'd bring it back up in a louder volume, but I wouldn't 'discuss' it even to the tiny extent that you did. I would do something like

Clare: "And of course, Grandfather was a peadophile"
You (no emotion, flat voice, don't even make direct eye contact with her): Well, he's dead now. Aunt Sarah, what were you telling me about Cousin making bean dip? That's so adorable!

Ideally Aunt Sarah is someone right at the other end of the table from Clare, and you give Aunt Sarah a lot of attention. Clare gets none.
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

SamiHami

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3328
  • No! Iz mai catnip! You no can haz! YOU NO CAN HAZ!
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2013, 05:26:04 PM »
I think just completely ignoring that she's said anything is the way to go. If she is clueless but not mean spirited, she'll realize that she's said something no one wishes to discuss and will let it go. If she responds with "Hey? Didn't you hear what I just said about Grandpa?" then you'll know that she is doing it strictly for attention and shock value.

BTW the only response for "Hey, didn't you hear..." is a flat, "Yes, we heard you" and then going back to pleasant conversation with the rest of the group.


What have you got? Is it food? Is it for me? I want it whatever it is!

gramma dishes

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8265
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2013, 05:27:15 PM »
...    I don't think we have a clare in our family... maybe we don't have enough skeletons in our closet lol...   ...


LOL!!  It wouldn't matter!

A "real" Clare would have no problem with the fact that your family doesn't have any skeletons in the closet.  A "real" Clare would just make some up and toss them out there!!  We had one of those in our family. 

poundcake

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1255
Re: Shutting down the toxic family gossip
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2013, 06:33:55 PM »
I had to stop my own "Clare" during Christmas dinner this year. At a table full of friends and relatives, "Aunt Clare" started talking about a number of inappropriate topics, starting with her daughter's "deadbeat baby daddy." At first several of us just continued our own conversation, but as Aunt Clare's voice raised and the subject turned to the details of another relative who has apparently gotten involved in an "alternate lifestyle" with his own cousin, I finally interrupted and said, "Oh, come on, do you REALLY think this is appropriate Christmas dinner conversation?" and bean dipped. It worked, thankfully.